Atlanta fire chief fired because of his faith now helping others facing the same issues with cancel-culture

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Kelvin Cochran proudly served as a firefighter for over thirty years, and in fact  received the honor of “Fire Chief of the Year” in 2012, with former president Barack Obama appointing him as the U.S. Fire Administrator, the highest fire service post in the nation.

He was until 2015 the fire chief for the Atlanta Fire Department. 

However that all came crashing down as Cochran became one of the first victims of “cancel culture,” terminated as Atlanta’s fire chief for expressing his personal views about marriage.

His crime? He wrote a book in which he stated his belief…his personal view…that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

In an interview on the Daily Signal podcast, Cochran spoke out about his new book, “Facing the Fire: The Faith That Brought ‘America’s Fire Chief’ Through the Flames of Persecution.” He says the experience of losing his job for nothing more than expressing his faith was “challenging to say the least.”

 

He noted that as Americans, “we have the freedom to live out our faith, religious liberty, and we have freedom to speak our faith in whatever form of speech that we feel convicted to do without consequences,” he said.

“You shouldn’t have to lose anything for living out your faith or speaking your faith in our country.”

During the podcast, Cochran explained  why he chose a life in the fire service. As a five-year old in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, he said that one Sunday after church there was a fire across the street. While watching the firefighters, he decided then and there that he wanted to be a firefighter.

Unlike today, when African Americans are pigeonholed as oppressed with no chance to succeed, as Cochran was growing up with a single mother, he along with his five siblings were told that they could achieve whatever they wanted in America “if we would believe in and have faith in God, if we would go to school, and get a good education, if we respected grown people and treat other children like we wanted to be treated.”

“I was so determined not to be poor and to have a family that I never theft them and to be a firefighter that I just believed what they were telling me were the keys to my dreams coming true. And it worked. So it all started as a 5-year-old boy.”

Cochran was asked by host Virginia Allen about obstacles he had faced early on in his career, and how he was able to overcome them.

He noted that when he was five, blacks and women were not allowed to be firefighters, however nobody discouraged him from his dream despite the obstacles.

“Nobody ever told me, ‘Change your mind because blacks can’t be firefighters.’ No one ever told me that.”

He noted that in 1981 when he was hired, it came about as the result of a lawsuit filed against the city of Shreveport who were trying to prevent blacks and women from becoming firefighters. When they lost the lawsuit, the city had to “level the playing field” and hire blacks.

He noted that despite all of that, there were still roadblocks after he graduated from the fire academy, with his peers telling them “in no uncertain terms that we were not welcomed, that we were only there because we were black and that we were protected by the government and so many other hurtful and awful things that were said.”

He spoke of separate beds for black firefighters, some stations had separate plates, forks, and spoons for black firefighters. “It was very, very difficult,” he said.

Cochran said that despite all of that, he still had the values he grew up with and maintained belief and faith in God. He said that despite the treatment he and others received, he still believed in treating others how he would want to be treated.

“And so those values got me through those difficult days, and the favor of God was on me because of that.”

Allen asked him about his faith, noting that it seemed to be particularly important to him, and asked where that faith came from, and this is key. We have seen people make excuses for those, especially in the black community who grow up in single parent households, but Cochran didn’t see that as an obstacle, and said he derived his faith from his mother.

“When my dad left, things were very, very difficult for mom, and she knew the Lord, but when he left, she really turned wholeheartedly to her faith in God. And so I can remember how things just kind of shifted for us,” Cochran said.

He noted that the family attended a Baptist church, attended Sunday school, and regularly attended worship service, sometimes returning Sunday evenings for a Baptist training union.

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“And our mother had high standards based upon the dreams she had for us. And she fed our dreams and let us know that with God, nothing can be impossible.”

He credited all of those challenges growing up, along with his mother’s abiding faith in laying the foundation for his faith walk later in life.

He said that as he went through life, “I just began to see the hand of God in every situation come through on my behalf. God has a track record. He builds a track record in our lives, even from childhood, that he is faithful and that we can count on him.”

The interview then turned to Cochran’s first book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” and what led to his termination as Atlanta’s fire chief.

Cochran joked about the title of the book, saying that people probably saw the title of the book and said it wasn’t a wonder why he got fired, without realizing the question in the book’s title actually came from Genesis Chapter 3, Verse 11.

He said that when the book was published, he had just returned from serving one year as the United States Fire Administrator and was a very active member in his church’s men’s ministry.

Cochran said it was actually four pages in the book which led to his demise with the Atlanta Fire Department, where he talks “about biblical marriage and biblical sexuality,” noting that a lot of men fall into the trap of sexual sin.

He said in the book he explained “God’s purpose for marriage and God’s purpose for sexuality and that any sex outside of God’s purposes is sinful.”

He said those were the pages which cost him his life’s dream.

An openly gay Atlanta city council member found what was written in the book, written on Cochran’s personal time, however, as is typical for the LGBTQ mafia, complained to Atlanta’s then-mayor Kasim Reed, a supporter of the alphabet community who proceeded to suspend Cochran for thirty days.

Despite the fact an investigation found he had never used his personal views rooted in the Bible regarding either marriage or sexuality to discriminate against anyone who felt differently, that mattered not to Reed.

“The investigation exonerated me that I had never done so, that I was just and fair in treating all people. But I was terminated anyway after the 30-day suspension,” Cochran added.

Allen asked Cochran how it felt to lose the career he loved for what amounted to false accusations he had discriminated against others due to his personal religious beliefs.

“It was challenging to say the least, because in the United States of America, we have the freedom to live out our faith, religious liberty,, and we have the freedom to speak our faith in whatever form of speech that we feel convicted to do without consequences. You shouldn’t have to lose anything for living out your faith or speaking your faith in our country,” he said.

Cochran said that despite all of that, he had no regrets and said the ability he showed to still love and respect his Shreveport firefighters despite how he was treated served as a foundation which followed him through to his position as chief of the Atlanta Fire Department, vowing that nobody would ever have to face what he went through.

“I was very intentional of extending justice and fairness and equity to all men and women of the departments that I was privileged to serve because we serve a diverse community, so you have to have an authentic love for people to be a firefighter.

“We are put in positions where we could lay our lives on the line for even strangers, if duty calls for that. That’s what I lived out every day in my profession, but that’s the love that I have in my heart for people for Christ,” Cochran said.

He said being accused of bigotry due to his biblical views on marriage and sexuality, along with no longer being able to lead a fire department due to those views was extremely hard.

When asked by Allen what message he wanted to send to readers of his new book, in particular where it concerns the importance of religious freedom and standing up for those freedoms, Cochran first of all praised Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented him in his case against Atlanta.

“I did not know that there was such thing as a Christian law firm in the United States of America, but Alliance Defending Freedom is a Christian law firm, a Christian ministry that came alongside me to stand with me while I was facing the fire. And so I talk about their amazing role that they played when I was going through facing the fire.”

He said the book is offers a lesson in how God prepares everyone for things they experience through life, the ups and downs, hills, and valleys, while noting that sometimes suffering is necessary in order to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.

His termination in Atlanta served as a basis for the first chapter of the book, comparing his termination in some ways to people who have a near-death experience when their lives flash in front of them.

He said his termination was akin to a near-death experience, with his life flashing in front of him and God telling him he had prepared Cochran for that moment for his entire life.

He carried his life from childhood through to a young adult and finally to being a married man. He talked about “fires” he had encountered—not real fires but the “fires” of going through life, challenges in which he turned to God to help deliver him from those issues. Those fires included those of racism and discrimination, “fires” which he fought through with God’s help.

All of that served as the bases for his ability to deal with his termination, he said.

He spoke of five things he wanted readers to take away from his book:

“First of all, God always prepares us to face the fire. We wouldn’t be going through the fire if God had not determined that he had equipped us to go through the fire.

“The second thing that I’ve learned is that there are worldly consequences for standing on biblical truth and standing for Christ.

“But number three is there are kingdom consequences for standing on biblical truth and standing for Christ and the kingdom consequences are always greater than the worldly consequences.

“What I’ve learned as number four is God is glorified when his sons and daughters have the courage and grace to face the fire. He’s seen in a way that he would’ve never been seen before if we had not had the courage and grace to stand.

“And the fifth thing is, as Jesus promised, if you face persecution for standing for him, he says, ‘I’ll restore whatever you lose a hundredfold.’ My testimony, Virginia, I truth that Jesus was not speaking in hyperbole…”

He noted that the incident in Atlanta cost him some friends, but he’s gotten friends back that were “a hundredfold greater” than the friends he had lost. While he lost his mob as fire chief, he said he now is a senior fellow and vice president for Alliance Defending Freedom.

“I can tell you, Virginia, every area of loss, God has restored it a hundredfold.”

Chief Cochran related the loss of his job to challenges faced by others around the world, and related the incident of 21 Christian Egyptian men who were captured by ISIS some six years ago, being told, “You reject Christ or we’re going to cut your heads off,” noting they refused and in fact lost their lives.

He spoke of Afghanistan, where Christian families are given an ultimatum to either reject Jesus or their children will be killed. He said there was “not a case on record where a father who is a Christian in Afghanistan rejected Jesus Christ. And they were faithful to their risk, their threat, their precious children were killed.”

Finally, he told the story of a college campus in Kenya, where Christian and Muslim students attended where a group of radical Islamist extremists stormed the campus, separated the two groups, and told the Christian students, “You’re all going to die. The only way you get to live is to reject Jesus Christ.” One hundred twenty-five college kids all refused and paid with their lives.

“We don’t face those kinds of challenges in the United States of America. I lost my job, but I didn’t lose my head, I didn’t lose my children, and God gave me another job that is greater,’ Cochran said.

Despite all the challenges facing the United States, Cochran believes God will provoke a spiritual revival in our country.

In his role with Alliance Defending Freedom, one of Cochran’s roles is to oversee a “national deployment strategy” which would respond to incidents throughout the country were someone with deeply held spiritual beliefs publicly attacked for “living out their faith.”

He said there would be “a unified response from the body of Christ to that location on their behalf, to pray with them, to support them, to have a legal strategy around them, to have community engagement with them, and the community on their behalf, so that they will not feel alone and so that they will not have a sense of loss.”

Cochran is hoping to have the deployment strategy up and running within the next three to six months.

“And what that’s going to do, if we have a unified, consistent response every time a believer is attacked, I believe more believers will have the courage and grace to stand and will ultimately cancel cancel culture.”

They say everything in life happens for a reason. In the case of Chief Cochran, that is clearly true. God had bigger plans for him and Christians across the country will be better served by that fact.

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